Leonardo Cremonini was one of the preeminent Italian painters of the twentieth century. Widely admired, critically acclaimed, and technically accomplished, his works are to be found in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, D. C., the Musée d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and numerous other public collections across Europe and the United States.
The painter Francis Bacon was an early admirer of Cremonini, proposing to a gallerist friend that the poet W. H. Auden write about his work. Italian literary giants Umberto Eco and Italo Calvino authored lyrical appreciations of the artist. Another champion was William Rubin, legendary director of MoMA, who articulated the essential idea that Cremonini’s canvases embody a “spirit of timeless monumentality.” That acute characterization captures the ethos of Cremonini’s haunting, poetic and enigmatic imagery—his arid, light-filled, silent interiors, described in meticulous detail and populated by anemic, emotionally detached figures. In their geometric clarity and purity of form, his compositions recall the still lifes of the modern Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, while the rigorously constructed spaces that adhere to the geometric laws of perspective hark back much further in history, to Piero della Francesca and other artists of the Italian Renaissance.
With the ascendancy of abstraction and conceptual art in the later twentieth century, Cremonini has been sidelined at the margins of modernity. But the resurgence of figurative painting in recent years, and the current, growing appreciation of modern Italian art, make this the optimal moment for a critical reappraisal and popular rehabilitation. Featuring some 35 works from the peerless holdings of the Louis-Dreyfus Collection, this major exhibition is the first monographic survey devoted to Cremonini in over two decades, and will serve to foster a renewed appreciation of the artist.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website